Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

Cravat making

In tutorials on 4 June, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Making a cravat is very simple, and can be done in a couple of hours.  I have a pattern made up and in pdf format, so if you’re looking for one, drop me a line, and I’ll happily send it on.

Cravats traditionally have a silk front, with ornate detailing, and a plain backing.  You can go this route, or, as I have done, take a beautiful fabric for the front, and back it with silk; the feel of the silk on the skin is luxurious, doesn’t cause unnecessary sweating, and can provide warmth on a cold winter’s day.  As this garment is so quick and easy to make, you don’t have to resort to the hairspray trick for the silk, but you can if you just can’t face the silk without it, or a bottle of whiskey.  If you are going to do as I’ve done, and use a contrast colour for the back, choose your thread colour consciously – it must fit in with your colour idea for the garment, as you will be topstitching the garment.

You will need a front and a back – two or four pieces, depending on whether you choose to cut on the fold, or cut two pieces for each, and sew them together.  The fabric I use isn’t terribly wide, so I tend to go for the latter option.

1 four pieces ready to sew

The garment requires marking on the right side of either the front or back, as the folds are made once the garment has been turned right side out, and top stitched.  I find silk impossible to mark, so I mark the front with ordinary drawing pencils; make sure it’s a contrast colour that you will see easily.

2 marking fabric

Once your centre seams are done and pressed for the front and back pieces, pin your two pieces together, right sides facing, leaving an opening big enough to put your hand through.

3 pinning edges together

Sew your edge seams together.  Once this is done, take the time to add a drop of fray hindering glue to the six corners of your garment – you will need to trim them quite close, and sometimes fabric frays through.  I tend to wait until the glue is dry, otherwise it gets all over me and the scissors, and invariably the next precious fabric I’m working with.  Then trim your edges, but leaving the opening untrimmed; trying to hem it with a trimmed edge isn’t what I’d call fun.

4 trimmed edges showing opening

With regards to overlocking, I have decided against it for this garment for two reasons.

  1. all seams are securely sewn to the inside
  2. it may add bulk to the garment

Turn the garment right side out, making sure that your corners are pushed out as best you can.  Lay the garment out on a long, flat surface, and start pinning around the edges.  I pin regularly, as silk likes to move.

5 turned inside out and pinned

Top stitch around the entire edge of the garment.  I like to put my needle on one click to the inside of the garment, and keep the standard line on the edge of the garment.  I find this gives me a uniform width with minimal effort.

6 top stitching

You now have a solid garment that is beginning to look like it could very well be a cravat.  Next step is to make the folds from the neck down to the vertical seam; this is why the folds and vertical seam were marked on the right side of the fabric.  Pin the folds in place up to just past the vertical seam, and then press.  The pressing is important, as this is one of only two measures taken to keep the folds in place; the second is top stitching.

7 folded and pinned

Once pressed, and before you take the pins out, top stitch the centre seam and the two vertical seams.

8 top stitch on centre seam

9 top stitch on vertical seam

All this top stitching obviously pulls through to the back of the garment, which will look like the picture below – this is why it’s important to choose a thread colour that fits in with your overall colour idea for the garment; I like the fact that the stitching is visible from the back, but I want it to be a complimentary colour.

10 rear view of top stitching

Finish off the garment by sewing the threads into the folds, where no one will see them.  And voila, you have a finished garment.  Easier than pie, and lasts much longer than a good pie would too.

11 finished product



Fixing a Red Chinese Silk Dress

In tutorials on 1 June, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Mending a Red Chinese Silk Dress Working with silk is not exactly what one would call fun. It’s akin to going to weight watchers, waiting for your weigh-in, knowing that you went out three nights last week, drank wine, ate pasta, and generally had a smashing time – there isn’t even the remotest chance that you will have lost any weight. You can’t even hope for maintaining your weight. It’s a guaranteed loss.

Enter, a damaged Chinese silk dress from a client. She is of a petite build, reaching only my shoulders in height (I’m only 1.66m). This beautiful red Chinese dress was too big for her upon purchase in Singapore, specifically around the waist area. She took it to a dress maker to fix, who charged her a lot of money to not take enough in. The dress was still too big. Her mother then attempted to fix it for her, and what I’ve received tells me that she got the fright of her life upon putting a needle into the fabric, and attempted to do as little damage as she possibly could. Her reaction is neither unfounded, nor uncommon. These are pictures of some of the damage I was to fix.

This is the sort of thing that makes you want to lunge for the whiskey bottle at ten am. I didn’t touch this dress for days. I thought long and hard about how I was going to approach this, having had the conversation with the client that this may not be fixable. I probably shouldn’t have said that out loud, because the stubborn little girl in my head said, “uh-huh? We’ll see about unfixable.” She’s not always the most helpful little girl.

I settled on a two-fold attack: fray hindering glue, and fusible interfacing, over which I would sew the seams back together. The reason for the glue is that this fabric frays faster than I do at a shoe sale, and generally with no assistance.

chinese silk unravelling

If I was going to work with it, requiring ironing, some tugging, and just a little sewing, it was going to need to be stable. The glue worked a charm, but what I found is that it bled into the fabric a little. Fait accompli, I’m afraid, but a lesson learnt nonetheless.glue bleeding ext view






Ironing the interfacing on re-introduced my sewing kryptonite – always check that you’ve got the right side down, otherwise, you have to clean the iron. At this point, the stubborn little girl had gone off to look at something more interesting at the back of my head, and was pointedly absent.

front dart interfacing



side seam interfacing



From the outside, this approach worked. The seams appeared fixed, and would hold provided no weight was gained. Not even a gram. My next concern was how to make it look prettier on the inside, given that interfacing needs stabilising on both sides. This concern had to take into account that you can’t do slip stitching on this fabric. Next battle commences.

I ended up simply trimming the interfacing on the dress side, and overlocking the two seams together, was the least messy of the options.

side seam finished fix int view



It’s worked, and everything looks very neat.

side seam finished fix ext view

front dart finished fix ext view






What I’ve taken away from this is the necessity of seam binding in the form of ribbon. The same client has asked for a similar dress to be made out of blue Chinese silk; I’ll make the pattern so that the dress fits her body, and will bind every seam with silk ribbon, given that these seams won’t be lined, and will be visible when the dress is inside out.